Your Guide to the More Popular Pre-Hire Assessments

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Mar 13, 2017

Personality tests are a growing industry. Though recruiters have differing opinions on personality tests as an indicator of  fit, according to a 2011 report, the use of personality assessments was then increasing by as much as 20% per year.

Part of the reason pre-employment personality tests are on the rise is because of an increased number of applicants. Unlike in the pre-internet era, where you would place a newspaper ad and be lucky if 50 applicants applied, now each open position can have hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants. This is a huge burden that falls on the shoulder of HR professionals and recruiters.

When an employee is placed in a role that does not fit his or her personality, it often leads to lower engagement. According to Gallup, low employee engagement results in 21% lower productivity and about 45% higher turnover. According to Susan J. Alpert, in her article, “The Use of Personality Tests As a Hiring Tool: Is the Benefit Worth the Cost?” replacing employees is extremely costly. The typical cost of replacing a bad hire is about 1.5 times the worker’s salary and benefits.

Additionally, companies are looking for a recruitment tool that gives quantifiable measures and that can stand up to legal challenges. Personality tests are now delivered online, where they can be processed immediately and normed against thousands of other candidates.

Personality issues cause fails

A recent study from the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business found that the top reason both internal and external executive hires fail is behavioral. For example, the personality of the senior executive may have been a bad fit for the senior team or organization. We already know how expensive a bad hire can be, and the more senior the employee, the more expensive it is. It is clear that the use of personality testing is crucial.

Do personality tests lead to unfair stereotyping? For a perspective on how best to use these tests see There’s More to People Than Being An “Owl”.

However, it is just as important to choose the correct personality assessment. Not all personality assessments used by large companies are considered to be valid predictors of job success.  According to a Harvard Business Review Article from 2014, you should choose a personality assessment that contains these attributes:

  • The assessment is normative, meaning the scores can be compared to other candidates’ scores.
  • The assessment has high reliability and is a proven predictor of job performance. This means that if a candidate retakes the assessment, he or she will score similarly, and that the results correlate with performance.
  • The assessment has a “candidness” scale so you can understand how accurately the test taker’s answers portray his or her character traits.

Some popular tests explained

Against that criteria, how do some of the most popular pre-hire personality assessments compare?

The Caliper Profile

The Caliper Profile has been in existence for about 50 years and is widely used by various companies across the U.S.  The Caliper Profile evaluates how an individual’s traits will relate to his or her job performance. There are a few different types of questions. Candidates encounter a series of statements from which they must determine the statement that best matches their perspective. Other questions require them to choose the statement that least reflects their perspective.

There may also be true/false questions, as well as questions with a five degree of agreement scale. The Caliper Profile is unique in the sense that it examines both positive and negative qualities in order to provide a well-rounded picture of an individual.

According to the company, the Caliper Profile has been validated by almost a half-century of research. It provides a customized selection report that includes data on job-fit match, which offers information about a candidate’s potential success in a specific role. An extremely useful tool for a hiring manager is the interview guide. This tool can help standardize your interview process.

Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire

The Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF) is a personality test developed by psychologist Dr. Raymond Cattell. He claimed that a person’s personality can be categorized into 16 different personality factors.

The 16PF asks about daily situations to evaluate a candidate’s day-to-day behavior, interests, and opinions for future employers. There are 185 multiple-choice questions to be rated on a five-point scale, ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” The results outline general career areas that match a candidate’s  personality. The report includes career options falling under one of these seven career areas: Influencing, Organizing, Helping, Creating, Analyzing, Producing, and Adventuring. This is a great tool for recruiters to clearly see if a candidate matches a specific position.

The 16PF test results are normalized based on the job being filled, and each statement is to be answered on a five-point scale. There are different reports available for different careers. Each report analyzes specific traits that would be relevant for different professional settings. For example, there are reports on career development, teamwork, management potential, and a psychological evaluation.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

One of the most well-known tools for mapping employee personalities is the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI.) According to CPI, the test’s publisher, 89 of the Fortune 100 companies use the MBTI.

The MBTI measures whether an employee’s personality leans toward one of two tendencies in the following groupings: Extraversion vs. Introversion, Intuition vs. Sensing, Thinking vs. Feeling, and Judging vs. Perceiving. An employee can fall into one of 16 personality types.

The Myers-Brigg Type Indicator allows employers to determine if a candidate would be a good cultural fit for the company and thus be able to transition into a team with ease. The MBTI has 93 questions that are presented at a 7th-grade reading level. The questions are formatted in an A/B format, meaning a question will ask if you prefer A over B.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is not a normalized exam, nor are the questions scaled. It has not been proven valid for recruitment use. In fact, CPI put out a statement saying that it is not considered ethical to use the MBTI for hiring or deciding job assignments. The MBTI is more appropriate for understanding how a candidate may perform in a group.

SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire

The questionnaire (OPQ32) has been around for over 30 years. Currently distributed by CEB SHL Talent Management, the OPQ32 assessment is designed to give employers an idea of how certain behaviors will impact a candidate’s work performance.

The test is comprised of up to 104 questions that measure 32 specific personality characteristics. There are three domains in which the 32 personality characteristics can be found: Relationship with People, Thinking Style and Feelings, and Emotions.

Candidates are given four statements, and they must decide which statement best describes them and which statement describes them the least.

What’s nice about the OPQ32 is that there are multiple report options, depending on goals, that can be decided on by both HR and managers. The report selector is extremely user-friendly for both management and OPQ trained personnel.

The OPQ32 was specifically developed to be relevant and suitable for the workplace. It has custom reports that are normed and that go into detail, displaying both strengths and weaknesses. These reports provide an easy-to-read graphical summary of performance in specified job-related domains.

DiSC Behavior Inventory

DiSC assesses a candidate’s dominant traits based on four personality types. The four-style behavior model has been around since the time of Hippocrates, around 400 B.C.

There are various versions of the DiSC Personality Test available. The DiSC personality profiles include the four basic DiSC factors: Dominant (D), Influential (I), Steady (S), Compliant (C). Employers use the test to understand an employee’s work behavior style and his or her ability to work as part of a team. The DiSC is extremely user-friendly and short, ranging from between 12 to 30 questions. Candidates are given an adjective or phrase and asked to choose which applies to them the most and the least.  It is also one of the cheaper tests on the market, generally costing under $100 dollars per candidate.

Even though the DiSC is a popular test used by many companies, it  is considered more of a temperament assessment. It is an ipsative test, which means the results are not normalized. The test only shows the relative strengths of a single candidate, meaning you cannot compare the scores between two potential candidates. The DiSC is also not considered a valid tool for job success, which can be problematic for  HR.